A Clarinetist in Paris

The Clarinet Compositions of Armando Ghidoni

Over the past two years, I’ve had the incredible opportunity to get to know Armando Ghidoni and his music. Ghidoni is vivacious and exudes a genuine joie de vivre, and his music perfectly captures his warm personality – I hear Ghidoni’s laughter and cheer in every single note. I am honored to have written my thesis on the music of such a talented composer and amazing new friend.

If you’ve never listened to Armando Ghidoni,’s music before, I strongly suggest you check it out (I’ve included links below)! Ghidoni was born in Italy and later moved to Paris, where he still resides today. He’s written clarinet music for all ability levels in a variety of instrumentations, and his music is published by the renowned French publisher Alphonse Leduc. His music is a unique blend of classical and jazz, with traces of the Italian bel canto style infused with French harmonies. His beautiful melodies are easy to get stuck in your head, as I (and several of my friends – and neighbors who endured countless hours listening to me practice his music) can attest to.

Listen to Ghidoni’s music

Listen to Virtuoso Swing Solo for unaccompanied clarinet here.

Listen to the world premiere of Alegre Marie for clarinet and piano here.

Listen to Au rythme des souvenirs for clarinet, voice, and piano here.

Listen to Preghiera for clarinet, voice, and piano here.

Listen to Jazzy-Celtic Suite for clarinet and piano (or clarinet and harp) here.

I have created a table with all of Ghidoni’s compositions which include the clarinet (both solo and chamber music), which you can see here.

I’ve included an excerpt from the English version of my thesis below. All quotes are from personal interviews with Ghidoni in Paris.

Biography of Armando Ghidoni

Armando Ghidoni was born in 1959 in Trente, Italy. He began playing flute when he was ten years old. Ghidoni was classically trained on the flute, because the flute was not considered a jazz instrument. He was interested in learning jazz, but was told that serious conservatories did not teach this popular style.  Ghidoni’s classical training did not stop him from loving and appreciating jazz music, and when he was fifteen, he began learning the saxophone. This was considered primarily a jazz instrument, and it was not until he moved to Lyon in 1984 to continue his compositional studies that he learned that there was a classical saxophone school as well. When he arrived in France, Ghidoni did not speak any French, but he quickly learned during his music lessons. After living in Lyon for two years, Ghidoni moved to Paris in 1986 to continue his compositional studies. Ghidoni remained in Paris after he completed his musical studies. Today, he is published by the renowned Alphonse Leduc in Paris, and he also has a personal music edition, Armando Ghidoni Music Collection. Today, he maintains a busy schedule composing and traveling to hear performances of his music.

Before Ghidni’s formal compositional training, he often copied scores of famous works by hand, such as Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du Printemps.  Ghidoni began copying scores by hand around the age of 15, and this was how he learned the compositional styles and characteristics of composers like Stravinsky, Bach, and Mahler who influenced him musically. Ghidoni had many teachers, but considers three among his most influential: Guiseppe Saccomani, Attilio Donadio, and Roger Boutry. Ghidoni describes his principal teachers:

“With Saccomani, I found the wonderful world of harmony. Donadio was a great composer and arranger. He composed for everything – television, radio, important shows, jazz bands, singers, chamber music, symphony orchestra…He gave me the secret how to find my music and not be a copy of somebody else. He believed in my talent, and without Donadio, I would not be the composer I am today. Roger Boutry won the Grand prix de Rome, and I knew him in Paris. I gave me very important advice on orchestration. Today, we are friends, and I am so proud about this, and his advice is still very important to me. These three different teachers believed in me. For this reason, today I am a composer with a personal style and personal voice in the music world.”

Ghidoni’s first published piece was Es for alto saxophone and piano, and it was published by Robert Martin in France. After Es, he published two pieces for saxophone quartet, Blues and Boogie and Prelude e Fuga in stile jazz with the publisher College Music in Italy (this publisher does not exist today). In addition to his first two pieces for saxophone quartet, he also published Concertrino (today titled Concert-Trio), Concerto for Clarinet, and Badaluk-Concerto with the publisher Pizzicato. Today, these three pieces are published by Alphonse Leduc. Ghidoni’s first publication by Éditions Alphonse Leduc was Douce Chansonnette for alto saxophone and piano in 1989, which began his long-lasting association with this internationally renowned publisher. When I ask Ghidoni which of his compositions are his favorites, he says, “Choosing a favorite composition is like choosing your favorite child – it’s impossible.”

Musical Philosophies

During my interviews with Armando Ghidoni these past two years, I have had the opportunity to know him as both a composer and as a friend. It is impossible to describe his music without describing his personality, because they are so interdependent. Ghidoni possesses many of the characteristics shared by Italians – he is warm, friendly, and has a genuine joy of life. He is modest and humbled by his success, and he is always thankful when new musicians discover his music. He has achieved an ideal balance between his work and leisure, and he emphasizes the importance of taking physical and mental pauses to encourage creativity. He is a hard worker, and when he composes, his music takes priority over all else. Between compositions and travels, he enjoys relaxing to recharge his creative energy.

Ghidoni is very receptive to new ideas and new music, and he is often flexible with his own compositions. For example, when I asked him what his thoughts were on musicians playing his works on other instrumentations (other than those he has personally arranged), he joked, “It depends how good they are!” All kidding aside, Ghidoni creates alternate instrumentations to allow more people to perform his music. If somebody proposes a new instrumentation, he is willing to consider their idea. Unlike some composers, Ghidoni is not a totalitarian – he values the opinions of the musicians performing his music, and he believes in the importance of individual and unique musical ideas.

Despite having several musical influences, Ghidoni’s style is his own. He knows and appreciates music from the masters, but he is not an imitator. He believes that music is highly individualistic and that there is no single correct way to perform a piece. “Imitation in music is not art. Music is a feeling.”

Hearing Ghidoni’s music allows listeners a glimpse of Ghidoni’s personality. His music is energetic, upbeat, and memorable. Ghidoni’s personality is present in each composition, which is why his music has such a unique style – because it is a reflection of himself. It is genuine and exudes his joie de vivre. Ghidoni explains, “For me, the music must enter in the heart and soul of everybody. The music is spiritual. The music is the voice of the soul, and the soul is God. The music (or the art) that doesn’t speak to the heart and soul is not really music or art. This is my personal credo.”

Many composers today create avant-garde and experimental music today. Ghidoni shares his opinion on contemporary music:

“The problem today is that a lot of contemporary music doesn’t speak to the heart and soul, so the audience doesn’t feel it, and they don’t really like this music. We must learn and progress in the music (like in life), but we must think the man is a part of a body which contains a spiritual part – heart, soul, sensations, emotions, feelings – all these parts feel the music. Contemporary music is just for the body, so audiences don’t feel anything when they listen to that music – no emotions, no passions, nothing.”

Compositional Process

Each composer has their own unique creative process, and Ghidoni is no different. During the two years that I have known him, he always had a project or commission that he was working on. In order to achieve his own voice, Ghidoni does not listen to any music during his compositional process.  He explains that this will prevent him from unwittingly using similar ideas to existing music. “I am not Beethoven, Mozart, or Stravinsky.  All of that has been done before, and I want my own voice.”  This ensures that he is not consciously or subconsciously copying the musical ideas of others. Ghidoni does not use the piano during his compositional process.  He hears the melodies and harmonies in his head, and he uses the piano only as a control to check notes and chords. “When I compose, I don’t think anything. Really! I feel the music in me and I write it. When I compose, I want to be alone with totally full immersion in my emotions and my ‘music’s sound world.’ When I finish composing a piece, I am tired but so deeply happy. I am happy deep in my heart and soul, and it makes me feel so good.”

He also transposes instruments (if necessary) while he is composing so that he can hear the correct pitches in his head.  Inspiration strikes him at random times, and the length of Ghidoni’s compositional process depends on each piece.  Between compositions, Ghidoni believes that it is important to take a break and experience life.  Ghidoni is generally joyful and appreciates life’s simple pleasures.  Ghidoni travels often for his compositions, where he can experience other cultures.  In his free time, Ghidoni has some eclectic hobbies which include driving racecars.

Ghidoni describes his compositional process, “When I compose I am happy, and I hope the auditor shares this happiness when they hear my music.” Ghidoni believes that every piece is like a story.  “You must introduce yourself immediately in each piece.” Whereas some composers are notoriously critical of every detail of their music, Ghidoni emphasizes the importance of capturing the overall feeling of his music over achieving technical perfection. “I want to hear the feeling and emotion. Technical mistakes are not as important as having the right feeling.”

For more information on Ghidoni and his music (or to read the French version), contact me here.


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